Indiana Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers delivers her annual State of Higher Education address Monday at the Indiana Statehouse. CNHI News Indiana photo by Scott L. Miley
Indiana Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers delivers her annual State of Higher Education address Monday at the Indiana Statehouse. CNHI News Indiana photo by Scott L. Miley
INDIANAPOLIS -- The one-size-fits-all system for delivering higher education should be molded to a more personalized approach, Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers said Monday.

"The best opportunity for increasing higher education's value proposition is by building a system around the learner -- both recent high school graduates and returning adults -- that prepares them for a dynamic economy," she told more than 80 people gathered in the Indiana Statehouse to hear her annual State of Higher Education address.

"Our system of higher education must adapt to today's learners by offering more personalized, more 'just in time' and more continuous learning," she said. 

There shouldn't be a policy and funding tug of war between providing Hoosiers with more education and those seeking more training, Lubbers said.

"I'd like to make a case for why pitting these against each other, or more accurately talking about them in separate ways, is counterproductive to our need to align strategies and design career pathways," Lubbers said.

She noted that her state commission has for five years focused on ways to serve working-age adults.

The goal is to reach 60 percent of Hoosiers, but there's a 15 percent gap, reinforcing a need to retrain adults for higher level skills and the changing economy. That amounts to 1.5 million working-age Hoosiers without a credential beyond high school.

Higher education, she said, is at a crossroads as Indiana and other states have seen the closure of colleges because of financial model failures or enrollment declines. Indiana's most recent College Readiness Reports show a decline in the rates of Hoosiers going to college from 65 percent two years ago to 63 percent.

And while Indiana has made gains in holding down college tuition increases, questions arise about the value of higher education.

"As serious as debt is for graduates, consider the impact of students who leave before completing," Lubbers said. "We have to do a better job helping students handle their finances."

Thousands of Hoosiers have responded to the state's Next Level Jobs retraining efforts, led by Gov. Eric Holcomb and supported by increased legislative funding. A Brookings study showed that the more education workers have, the safer they are from job loss through automation.

"We need to find better ways to acknowledge their experience and speed their time to completion, work with their schedules and ultimately save these students time and money," Lubbers said. 

She also noted:

- More students are earning college credit in high school, 62 percent compared to 47 percent four years ago.

- Remediation rates are down; 12 percent of students need remediation when entering college, compared to 28 percent in 2012.

- Racial, ethnic and income gaps remain, but there's been an increase for 21st Century Scholars in college access.

- The Indiana Commission for Higher Education is updating its strategic plan by looking at demographic and enrollment patterns, finances, workforce needs and disruptions by automation.

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